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How a Planned Parenthood Collapse Could Impact Women's Health

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Among the first things Donald Trump is expected to do when he moves into the Oval Office on January 20 is push a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Included in the bill is a provision that would effectively strip Planned Parenthood of the $530 million in federal funding that keeps it afloat. And Planned Parenthood's annual expenses, btw? $1,152,200,000—the majority of which goes back to client services, education, and research. This money allows the organization to run 650 health centers nationwide, providing more than 2.5 million women (and men) each year with things like birth control, HIV testing, sexual education, reproductive counseling, and cancer screenings, at no cost.

This bill would essentially block Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed for medical expenses incurred by patients using Medicaid. Despite promises to defund the organization, Trump himself has previously touted the importance of the organization. "I'm totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women—cervical cancer, breast cancer—are helped by Planned Parenthood, the president-elect said last February. "So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women ... that are helped greatly."

And Trump's fact-checking holds up this time, as Planned Parenthood is now the largest provider of women's health and reproductive services in the nation. Despite right wing extremists' depiction of it as a reckless abortion clinic, abortions amount to just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services each year. From 2014–2015, according to its latest annual report, 31 percent of patient care provided was for contraception, 45 percent for STI/STD testing, and 12 percent for other women's health services.

In truth, the organization supports women who either can't afford or are unable to find alternate care, providing access to contraception, sexual education, reproductive counseling, HIV and STD testing, as well as cancer screenings. With 80 percent of Planned Parenthood patients reporting incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line, women with low incomes will undoubtedly make up a large chunk of those affected by these potential cuts. But let's be clear: They're far from alone.

A steady decline in ob-gyns has left an increasing number of women scrambling for reproductive care in America—a problem that's only slated to get worse. It's been reported that there are as few as 29 ob-gyns per 100,000 women in America and—as reported in a study by health care data company Amino—28 cities have none at all. Yep, that's called a women's health desert. And as of now, Planned Parenthood provides centers nationwide where this gap can be filled.

Whether you've been to a Planned Parenthood once or twice, depend on it regularly for care, or even think you may need it in the future, its potential disappearance is likely to have a huge impact on women's health. Need more proof? Take a deeper look at three of the organization's most important services and you'll see why.

Cancer Screenings

In 2011, a task force from the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that pap smears are the best way to detect (and beat) cervical cancer—which affects more than 12,000 women per year. Breast exams, similarly, have long been recommended to help detect breast cancer, which one in eight women will get during her lifetime. Tackling these two issues has been one of Planned Parenthood's main priorities. From 2014–2015, the organization provided 635,342 pap tests and breast exams, resulting in 71,717 women whose cancer or abnormalities were detected early.

Contraception

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards revealed on CNN that there has been a 900 percent increase (that's 2 zeros) in demand for intrauterine devices (IUDs) since Trump's election. Women are already concerned about access to birth control come January 21, and for good reason. An estimated 62 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 use contraception, ranging from Mirena (an IUD) to the Pill (oral contraception). Without Planned Parenthood to provide it at low or no cost, many women will no longer have access to these, which could cause a surge in unplanned pregnancies. The organization has long supported women in this area, providing them with 2,945,059 birth control resources and services, including more than 900,000 emergency contraception kits, in 2014 alone.

STI/STD Testing

With the release of the Planned Parenthood Direct app in 2015, testing for STIs/STDs has become as simple as ordering a lamp on Amazon (for $150, you can order a urine test kit that's confidential). In 2014, the organization performed 4,218,149 tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, prompting the diagnosis and treatment of 171,882 STIs. With the introduction of antibiotic-resistant STDs ("STD superbugs") and the rise in "sleeper STDs," affordable testing has never been more important. (Talk to your partner about your risks—here's how to make it easier.)

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